Is Peanuts the greatest comic strip of all time? It is hard to say for certain since there have been so many classics that have run throughout our lifetimes and and the lifetimes of our parents (and grandparents) before us. Calvin and Hobbes, Pogo, Popeye and Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy immediately come to mind. They are all masterpieces of the comic strip form–timeless, inspiring and entertaining…but do any of these (along with dozens I neglected to mention) have the true emotional pull and the personal connection we have all felt at one time with Charles Schulz masterpiece featuring Charlie Brown and the gang? Is there any visual ICON from the past 50 years more universally familiar than Snoopy?
For the past 10 years, Fantagraphics has been publishing The Complete Peanuts–every strip daily and Sunday of the 50 year career of Charles Schulz.
Off the top of my head, any given volume includes the following: The Great Pumpkin, the World War One Flying Ace on his Sopwith Camel, Beethoven, D Minuses, Security Blankets, Fuss-budgets..all part of the fabric of our lives…and the list goes on and on.
So far 18 volumes have been published–each collect an entire two years of Peanuts strips.
Like anything that lasts for 50 years, there are high water marks and there are some creative slumps.
Are there some volumes that are must haves?
I strongly recommend the following volumes:
The highest point of the highest level of any cartoonist output in the last 60 odd years. Every strip is brimming with creativity, laughter, pathos and painful emotional truth. There are times you will want to stop and hug the book because it will feel like you are connecting with an old friend. These two volumes are that strong. Here is just one example– and believe me– practically any random page would do…
Look at the center panel– we’ve all put on a coat that angrily. thanks Mr. Schulz!
Good Lord (did someone say ‘grief’?), my older sister treated me like dirt when we were kids….Thanks Linus!
Now, let’s jump ahead two decades to
The advent of the later era Peanuts (the one with which you are most likely familiar) where Peppermint Patty and Marci gradually take a more prominent spotlight. Their early give-and-take is classic Peanuts. Here is but a singular taste:
And there is plenty of the old magic to go around. Snoopy tries his hand at professional tennis with his adversary/doubles partner the malevolent Molly Volley.
What pressure– Poor Snoopy– their facial expressions in panel 4 tell it all. Amazing what Schulz could convey in one simple picture!
These three volumes are my personal favorites, but no matter what volume you try, you are in for a real pleasurable reading experience. These are books you will keep and re-read the rest of your days. Do yourself a solid and buy a volume of The Complete Peanuts. You can’t lose!